Brownie Cookies aka “Brooksters”

A few years ago, I bought my dad the Baked Explorations cookbook for his birthday – solely based on the gorgeous food pictures and creative recipes (ashamed to admit, I had not heard of Baked before seeing the book). Wow – definitely not disappointing. We have made countless recipes from that book and they have all turned out pretty fantastic. Given the gorgeous pictures and tasty recipes, it was only a matter of time before I got myself up to Baked in Brooklyn, and just like that cookbook, very much not a disappointment.

I wasn’t excited at all when this picture was taken…

First of all – we got to take a ferry there and ferries are always a good time, especially on a beautiful summer day.

ferrying it on over to Red Hook

and then, the goods.

No, that wasn’t all for me. I did taste it all though, and it was all delicious.

New York City is definitely one of my favorite places in the world for so many reasons – having places like Baked being one of them. I find myself suffering from NYC withdrawal if I haven’t visited in awhile, and it’s been almost a year since I was last there. Withdrawal is definitely setting in.

If I somehow win the lottery or publish some amazing IQ test or something, this is where I would like to live…

This is why I love visiting NY, and my NYU bffs. Lobster rolls + bacon mac and cheese are considered perfectly appropriate breakfast foods.

Since grad school has basically caused me to forget the definition of the word vacation and I have no idea when I will set foot in NYC again, I decided I would attempt to bring NYC to me – in the form of baked goods. To be honest, I would rather somehow make my NYC soulmate and fellow food-lover magically appear – but I think that might be a little more difficult. So for now, baked goods will have to do. Although I never actually tasted the famous “Brookster” when I was at Baked (they had salted caramel bars – how could I resist?!), I have been wanting to make one ever since I became aware of its existence. A brownie with a cookie baked inside of it?! GENIUS! They sell the mix at Williams Sonoma, but it doesn’t quite fit into my grad student budget and I am not much of a mix girl.  Now, I am going to be a giant hypocrite and admit that when it comes to brownies alone, I have always loved brownies from a mix (to the point where if I am super desperate for a dessert asap, I will combine brownie mix and water and eat it. And love it. It is what it is.) I have never made brownies from scratch that taste better than Ghirardelli brownies – whether that is a problem with my baking or a testament to how yummy Ghirardelli brownies are is yet to be determined, but I am going to go with the latter.

Now chocolate chip cookies on the other hand – COMPLETELY different story. In my opinion, fresh baked chocolate cookies made from scratch are the epitome of dessert – simple, easy to make, and unbelievably delicious if done right. I usually do my own variation on Alton Brown’s “The Chewy” – and by my own variation I mean that i use skim milk instead of whole milk and all purpose flour instead of bread flour. Not at all because I think it will taste better that way, really, it is just because those are the ingredients I typically have on hand, and when I want to bake, I want to bake like five minutes ago. I love Alton’s recipe because it uses melted butter, and that makes for easier mixing (given my usual lack of an electric mixer). The one downside – the need to plan ahead and be patient because these cookies are truly better after being refrigerated for at least 24 hours. Waiting a whole day to taste the fruits of my labor is definitely the hardest part of the recipe!

So, making brownies from a box mix and homemade chocolate chip cookie dough – here is my interpretation of the “Brookster.” I even got CRAZY and did a reverse brookster – brownie in a cookie! No idea which I liked more – they were both awesome. Too awesome, I need to get rid of them asap or I will eat them all. This is definitely making my list of top 10 desserts ever. Thank you Baked!

Brownie Cookies – “Brooksters” & Reversed “Brooksters” inspired by Baked

  • 1 box Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, prepared as directed
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks of nonsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli bittersweet)

Cookie Dough: In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour/baking soda/salt). Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium low heat. To give the cookies a more nutty flavor, brown the butter (careful not to burn it though!). While the butter is melting, stir together the sugars. Add the melted butter and stir until well combined. Add the milk and vanilla followed by the eggs, one at a time. Mix until incorporated and add the flour mixture, one third at a time. When you get to the last third, add the chocolate chips and mix along with the flour (helps to prevent over mixing). Here comes the hard part – cover and refrigerate for at least 24 (or up to 36) hours.

Brownies: First, remove take out the cookie dough so that it can warm up a bit before putting together the brooksters. Prepare the brownie mix as directed. I don’t know who I think I’m fooling (not even myself), but I decided to substitute applesauce for half of the oil in the brownie recipe. The point of that? No idea given all the other stuff going into this – I think I was just curious and I had applesauce for a change. And the brownies tasted the same to me, but that could be because they were surrounded by buttery chocolate chip cookies. Ok, back on track with the recipe.

Constructing the Brookster: Preheat oven to 375. Spray muffin tins (mini or regular sized – I did both) with cooking spray (very important step I realized, those brownies do NOT like to come out of the tins). Fill half way with brownie mix – trust me, JUST HALF WAY. I, of course, did about two thirds, and there was a lot of overflowing going on. Next, form balls of cookie dough (I used a teaspoon for the mini muffin tins and a tablespoon for the regular size – I should have gone a bit bigger I think) and flatten slightly so they look like fat little discs. They should be slightly smaller than the muffin tin. Drop the cookie dough discs into the brownie batter and put in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes (they will bake more evenly if the brownie batter/cookie dough are the same temperature). Bake (13-15 minutes for mini Brooksters; 20-22 minutes for big Brooksters).

Constructing the Reverse Brookster: this is basically just the opposite – so you will end up with a bigger cookie to brownie ratio. Press cookie dough into the muffin tins, again, fill about half way. Make a small indentation in the center and fill with the brownie mix (about 1 teaspoon for mini muffin tins, 1 tablespoon for larger tins). Refrigerate for 5-10 minutes and then bake at 375 (10-12 minutes for mini; 18-20 minutes for larger).

wonder where that missing one went…

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Double Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream & Caramel Corn

Baking is in my genes. My dad is a ridiculous baker, and when my mom recently had to give up gluten, he became a ridiculously good gluten free baker.  He is so good that he makes gluten free goodies that nobody can tell are gluten free. Unfortunately, living in Georgia, I rarely get to taste his new products – I get pictures instead.

My dad and his amazing chocolate cream pie. 🙂 One day I hope to be that good!

After receiving a barrage of picture messages over the last few weeks of gluten free red velvet cupcakes and salted caramel cupcakes and chocolate cream pies and blueberry muffins, I was craving some baked goods. Specifically, I wanted homemade cupcakes.

We have GiGi’s and another place called Silver Lining here in Athens, and no offense to those bakeries, but they have nothing on my dad’s cupcakes or the delicious cupcakes sold at Georgetown Cupcake in Maryland & DC. Realizing that a store bought cupcake just would not satisfy my craving, I did the next best thing – I made my own using the Georgetown Cupcake chocolate recipe (with some slight modifications), added some peanut butter buttercream, mini Reese’s, and the special finishing touch that really made me feel at home – Fisher’s popcorn flown in fresh from the great Ocean City, Maryland. WOW. There are no words for this delicious combo of chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel. And even better, now I have my own yummy pictures to send up to Maryland to make my parents jealous. Hah!

The cupcake itself is made from a recipe adapted from Georgetown Cupcake (the original recipe can be found here http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2008/11/05/chocolate-squared-cupcakes/), the frosting is a mix of many recipes I found online, and the frosting technique was a failed attempt to emulate Annie Eat’s interpretation of a recipe from the Savory Sweet Life cookbook (a much better version can be seen here, I blame the difference in frosting texture http://annies-eats.com/2012/06/22/chocolate-cupcakes-with-peanut-butter-cookie-frosting-sweet-savory-life-cookbook-giveaway/).

Double Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon sat
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup skim milk (Georgetown Cupcake calls for whole – I only had skim, saved a few calories plus they tasted just fine to me!)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line mini cupcake pans with liners. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add sugar; continue to beat on medium speed until incorporated. Add eggs – 1 at a time – mixing slowly after each addition. Combine milk with vanilla extract. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, mix until just incorporated, and then 1/3 of the milk mixture. Repeat until all of the flour and milk has been added. Add cocoa powder and chocolate chips; again, beat on low speed until just incorporated. Fill cupcake tins abut 1/2-2/3 of the way full (I used a heaping teaspoon of batter for each cupcake) and bake for about 11 minutes, or until a toothpick/fork inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Makes approximately 18-20 mini cupcakes, depending on how much batter you eat (oops!).

FROSTING!

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Mix butter and peanut butter together until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and salt and mix (lower speed) until incorporated, then add milk and vanilla. Mix until incorporated and add more milk/cream or powdered sugar if too thick or thin, until it reaches your desired consistency.

The Final Product

I tried to make the frosting look like it was a peanut butter cookie – SUPER cute idea but I think I’d either need a thicker frosting or the patience to let the frosting cool for a little in the fridge before icing the cupcakes. Next best thing – frost the cupcakes like normal, and top with a mini Reese and a few caramel corn kernels. You’re welcome 🙂

I’m trying to be all about balance here. This is what I ate for dinner – I’m surprised I even had room for my tomato/cucumber/basil/mozzarella salad with all of the cupcakes/cupcake batter I ate. Oh well!

Candied Bacon Matzo Crack

In keeping with the theme of bacon (because, why not?!) I am going to introduce a recipe that is completely random given that it is July 1st, not April – lets blame it on the 108 degree heat today. While yes, this concoction was created out of necessity for Passover, the Jewish holiday where eating bread or any other leavened products is a no-no for over a week, I see no reason why it can’t be a year-round staple.

As far as Passover goes, bread I can honestly do without – I am a fan of the matzo. All things matzo – matzo brie (sort of like french toast, with matzo), matzo pizza, and so on. I also love Passover – I love a good sedar and I love the challenge of trying to stay bread (and other leavened products)-free for as long as I can. However, it is the lack of sweets that always gets me. Passover sweets (fake cookies and cakes) are rarely any good. Thank GOODNESS for my friend Nicole, who introduced me to Matzo Crack – a delicious chocolate caramel covered matzo deliciousness. It doesn’t matter that I was unaware of this creation until college, nor that it was my non-Jewish friend who was never required to eat matzo that introduced it to me – all that matters is that I now am in on the “secret.” And this year, I felt that it was my responsibility to make my contribution.

This year was not the best year for my favorite holiday. It was busy busy (again, grad school, ugh); not only did my clinic schedule keep me from going home, I didn’t even attend a sedar. Womp womp. Now, don’t start feeling bad for me though. I had fun experimenting with some new types of matzo pizza (I used kale! and paired it with tortilla espanol…kosher Italian Spanish fusion time). I also made some matzo brie, some charoset, AND in exchange for some matzo crack, I even got myself some delicious homemade matzo ball soup courtesy of my awesome cooking class teacher/fantastic cook/dietician friend. Not too shabby.

Of course, Passover came and went and I was left with boxes upon boxes of matzo (I always buy too much. ALWAYS!). So, rather than wait and see if it would stay good for until next year (I bet it would have), I decided to take matzo crack to the next level. A level that was far more unhealthy and ridiculous than it had been before, not to mention completely un-kosher.

My new creation was inspired by a vendor selling candied bacon at the annual Terrapin Brewery carnival. After a few glasses of Terrapin’s super strong 10th anniversary beer, I could not resist the tempting scent of candied bacon being sold. It looked so good and I was so excited…only to be told I had to wait 15 minutes for the next batch. Fine. What wasn’t fine though? That when I returned 15 minutes later the vendor had almost sold the last of the bacon to SOMEONE ELSE. Unacceptable. I did finally get my bacon, and it was so good that I had to share. This left me with very little pork candy to myself, which led me to the obvious conclusion that I must make my very own candied bacon, which I did bright and early the following morning.

Then I got really creative – why not crumble that on top of matzo that has already been covered in caramel and chocolate?! And thus, Candied Bacon Matzo Crack was born. I do not regret creating this spectacular snack, potentially the most unhealthy and un-kosher concoction I have ever come up with; however, it will likely be awhile before I attempt it again. Not for health reasons (well maybe a little bit for health reasons…maybe this should be a once a year thing), nah, really it is because making candied bacon was a mess and a half. Messy, but delicious. So, please don’t let the mess prevent you from trying this at least once, it is worth it. And now for the recipe, inspired by Nicole and the rude vendor that almost didn’t give me bacon:

Candied Bacon Matzo Crack

Bacon

  • 4 strips of thick sliced bacon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Cayenne pepper OR Sriracha to taste

Matzo Crack

  • 4-5 pieces of lightly salted matzo – egg or flour (enough to fully cover a cookie sheet)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 12 oz bag chocolate chips (my faves – basic Nestle or bittersweet Ghirardelli chips if you want to get fancy)

Preheat oven to 400. Place a wire cooking rack on top of a baking sheet completely lined with foil. Toss bacon strips with brown sugar and hot spice of your choice. I used a few drops of Sriracha and it was perfect (in my Sriracha-obsessed opinion). Lay bacon strips flat on the wire rack and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Line another baking sheet with foil and cover completely with matzo (unfortunately, you will have to do some maneuvering with the matzo, keeping the crackers whole won’t cover a baking sheet – rather, break it up and piece it together…like a puzzle!). Meanwhile, cook butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly (I find that caramel burns easily, it my easily distracted experience). Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue mixing for about 3 minutes until it foams up and the sugar seems completely dissolved in the butter. Pour the caramel over the matzo and spread into a thin layer with a spatula. Stick the caramel matzo into the oven for 10-15 minutes – the caramel will start to bubble, and I always want to take it out too early – DON’T! Or you will be left with grainy-ish caramel like I have been, and nobody wants that. Once all of the caramel is bubbling, take it out of the oven and cover with chocolate chips. Wait 5 minutes and then spread into a thin layer with a spatula (if you don’t wait long enough, it is very difficult to spread – trust me, I know). Now, crumble some of that delicious bacon on top* and stick in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened (about 45 minutes 😦 ). Break into pieces and store in a tightly sealed tupperware container (who am I kidding, it rarely lasts long enough to make it to the storage phase).

*Obviously, this could be made without the candied bacon, but why?!